Houthi rebels were largely defeated in the city of Taiz in southwestern Yemen more than a year ago but the government hasn't been able to maintain influence over the area.

The Arabian peninsula's poorest country, Yemen is one of the most violent fronts in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Arabian peninsula's poorest country, Yemen is one of the most violent fronts in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. (AP Archive)

A symptom of a growing problem in Taiz is the inability of the government to extend control over an area that's now largely free of rebel forces – except for Al Qaeda forces that are growing in strength in the embattled city. 

"They've taken control of large areas of the city, and we've noticed that the state and the army deliberately avoids confronting them, and doesn't want to enter into open conflict with them," says an activist who narrowly escaped an attack by Al Qaeda, Fawwaz (his real name has been withheld for security purposes). 

"So they're able to entrench themselves more, and carry out their agenda of attracting youth." 

A Saudi-led coalition, backing an internationally recognised government, has been at war with Iran-allied Shia rebels, known as Houthis, since March 2015. 

The war, which is at a stalemate, has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced three million, damaged critical infrastructure and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

TRT World's Abubakr al Shamahi reports from Taiz. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies